Modern Pioneers #2 – Ivor Williams, Llanmadoc Community Shop
We’re running a campaign for Co-operatives Fortnight (21st June – 5th July) that shows the strength and diversity of co-operative businesses in Wales.
Through a series of blog posts, the ‘Modern Pioneers’ campaign highlights the sizes and types of co-operatives in Wales and the sectors in which they operate. It’s inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers, who are among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
Today’s post looks at the work of Ivor Williams, who helps to run a community shop in the Gower village of Llanmadoc. The shop is run as a co-operative.
“Some years ago, I had the privilege of being elected the founding chairman of a new co-operative. It’s an honour to now be regarded as a modern pioneer of the co-operative movement, following in the footsteps of the Rochdale Founding Fathers. Successful communities are based on mutual support and co-operation, principles which are just as important in business.
Llanmadoc Community Shop Ltd is a not-for-profit social enterprise which is also a co-operative. With around a hundred members and thirty volunteers, we started trading from a very inadequate, rented old barn in 2007. Apart from the shop there is also a coffee shop and post office. Since the start we have traded profitably each year, saving our surpluses to invest in our own premises. August 2013 saw us move into a new energy efficient building designed, in part, by the community. The change of location and facilities has seen a dramatic increase in trade. We now have over 200 members, 54 volunteers and a working environment that is second to none.
Working as a co-operative has allowed a large number of people to come together to meet a mutual need. In this case, retaining a shop in an isolated rural location. This village of about 250 people has a relatively high number of older residents, most of whom volunteer some of their time to be part of the business.
Our shop prides itself on supporting local businesses. Of our 45 suppliers, 39 are local or very local. This helps support individual producers in their own small businesses. We also have an informal mutual support system which helps local tourist-based businesses promote themselves, and in return they direct visitors to us.
I believe that one of the ways in which the national economy can grow is through its long tradition of co-operatives in Wales. We may be small in size, but we’re large in numbers, enough to make a difference. Expand the co-operatives, expand the economy.
We were the first and are still, so far as we can tell, the only community shop in the City and County of Swansea. From humble beginnings we have developed the idea of co-operation and mutual support. We now help other organisations to develop their thinking on how to develop successful businesses. We are a model which others can follow. Along the way, we have gained a number of business awards and were winners of the South Wales Village of the Year and Best Community in Wales 2009.
If we had not started this enterprise we could have become another of Gower’s holiday villages where everything shuts down in winter. Now we have a vibrant hub which is expanding and developing community activities. We serve our own community and even draw in some residents from other larger villages, for both shopping and social activities.”
Find out how co-operatives can be helped in Wales, through the business support section of our website.